Mary delves into the sto­ries around this won­der­ful sum­mer­time treat


With Au­gust comes an abun­dance of lo­cally grown soft fruit which, I think, can be one of the best and easiest pud­dings to serve. Picked ripe and in per­fect condition there is noth­ing bet­ter than a bowl of fresh strawberri­es with cream or ice-cream and a sprin­kle of sugar if you are so in­clined.

Months of ig­nor­ing those taste­less imported berries are re­paid in full by that won­der­ful burst of sum­mer time you get when you bite into your first lo­cal straw­berry of the year.

As with many of our favourite in­gre­di­ents, strawberri­es come with a fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory which is sur­rounded by sym­bol­ism and folk­lore. The berries and the flow­ers were be­lieved to sym­bol­ise right­eous­ness and per­fec­tion and were in­cluded in Chris­tian art through the cen­turies, the leaves be­ing tri­fo­li­ate and rep­re­sent­ing the trin­ity.

Dur­ing medieval times stone­ma­sons would carve strawberri­es into al­tars and at the top of pil­lars in churches and cathe­drals. Pa­gan be­lief was very sim­i­lar with the three leaves rep­re­sent­ing the three-fold Earth or Mother God­dess.

It was the Vic­to­ri­ans who be­lieved the berry sym­bol­ised per­fec­tion, sweet­ness in life and char­ac­ter and pos­si­bly mod­esty as the berries are hid­den by their leaves. Due to their bright red colour and heart shape, strawberri­es are the sym­bol for Venus, the god­dess of love.

Leg­ends of­ten tell about love rit­u­als, say­ing that you should be care­ful with whom you share a dou­ble straw­berry, as it is des­tined that the two of you will fall in love.

Birth­marks that are the size, shape and/or colour of the fruit are of­ten called straw­berry marks and are historical­ly seen as a sign of witch­craft. Anne Bo­leyn, the sec­ond wife of Henry VIII, had a straw­berry shaped birth­mark on the back of her neck, proof she was a witch!

And, of course, there are the Ro­man leg­ends about strawberri­es, one be­ing that when Ado­nis died Venus wept tears that dropped to the earth and be­came heart-shaped strawberri­es.

Whether you be­lieve in the folk­lore or not, en­joy this amaz­ing fruit while in sea­son, and per­haps their goodness should now re­late to a healthy diet, rather than their po­ten­tial in­flu­ence on our lives.

Try some sugar with a dif­fer­ence to dip them in; whizz in the processor mint or le­mon ver­bena with some gran­u­lated sugar, or if you have a sweet tooth, pop the fruit in the freezer un­til just frozen. Care­fully melt some white choco­late and, when ready for your pud, pour warm choco­late on the cold berries.

Find out more about Mary Kemp’s cookery the­atres, demon­stra­tions and more recipes at

Pho­tos: Getty

ABOVE: There are few bet­ter treats than fresh lo­cal strawberri­es

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